Even by the standards of so-called ‘Football Twitter’, the past week has been something of a cesspit.
Arguably the world’s best player, the current Ballon d’Or, has been accused of a crime, and the responses have been divided across depressingly predictable club lines. The player is Cristiano Ronaldo, and this week an investigation was re-opened in Nevada on the basis of accusations by a 34-year-old woman, who claims that the Juventus man raped her in 2009.
Cristiano Ronaldo has never been charged for anything relating to this case, much less convicted, and like anyone else he has the presumption of innocence. Beyond that any credible news outlet cannot comment, for fear of prejudicing a free trial as much as the threat of legal action. Ronaldo strenuously denies the allegations made against him, and no charges have been brought.
What we can comment upon is the reaction to these allegations, and what they say about society at large.
Many fans of Ronaldo or Juventus have instantly dismissed the allegations, apparently based on nothing more than blind loyalty. On the other side, fans of other clubs have delighted in condemning the man without charge, trial or evidence. There are some things which are beyond pure football rivalry and, whatever the facts of this case, this is one of them.
Were it just idiots on laptops sniping at each other, this could perhaps be brushed aside. The most truly depressing aspect of the past week was the statement released, via Twitter, by Juventus this evening.
The Bianconeri, understandably, looked to stand by their star man, highest paid player and most recognisable name. The problem is that in doing so, they struck entirely the wrong tone.
“Cristiano Ronaldo has shown in recent months his great professionalism and dedication, which is appreciated by everyone at Juventus,” the statement begins. “The events allegedly dating back to almost 10 years ago do not change this opinion, which is shared by anyone who has come into contact with this great champion.”
The club is perfectly entitled to defend their player who - again - has not even been charged in relation to the alleged incident. Their statement though, misses the point in almost every way imaginable.
Nobody doubts the professionalism and dedication of Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s what has made him the great player he is, and is to be commended. It also has nothing to do with the allegations made against him.
Allegations being 10 years old do not dilute their severity, whether or not they are true. Saying that something happened a long time ago is not mitigation. Ronaldo has consistently and vociferously denied that anything did happen and, as long as he hasn’t been charged, that must remain the presumption. But the timeframe has no bearing on it.
Finally, the assertion that “anyone who has come into contact with this great champion” finds the allegations not to be credible is irrelevant. A person being pleasant, fun, inspiring or sympathetic doesn’t mean they cannot commit a crime.
In an era where society is looking to shift toward being more accommodating to accusers, to praise Ronaldo’s athleticism and character, and point to the timeframe of the allegations, is unhelpful at best and outright damaging at worst.
Juventus cannot be blamed for standing behind their player when all he faces are allegations, but in this particular case it may have been better for the Old Lady to stay silent.